The upcoming Elite Series tournament on Bull Shoals and Norfork lakes is intriguing on many levels. It’s the first time the full field of Elite anglers will be required to fish two different lakes to determine the Top 50 and Top 12 cuts. And, just like Winyah Bay, this event will challenge Bassmaster Fantasy Fishing players and Elite Series anglers alike.
Typically, three official practice days are granted before every event. Due to the unique structure of this event, an additional practice day has been added making the total four days. Logic says two days on each lake, but that would still be less time than normal. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some anglers spend three days on Norfork, and less time on the more familiar Bull Shoals.
Both lakes are Ozark Mountain reservoirs and will fish similarly, but the anglers still need to find the fish and which presentation will produce the biggest bites — on two lakes.
My Fantasy picks for this event are focused on anglers who will fish the best under a short practice period, and those who are the most efficient at making on-the-water decisions. I’m also considering anglers who excel in shallow water during springtime.
BUCKET A: LUCAS
Justin Lucas has been fishing strong during the past three events, including the B.A.S.S. Southern Open on Lewis Smith Lake. The speed at which he’s able to productively cover water and unlock patterns has increased significantly over the past few seasons.
Lucas is a talented shallow-water angler, and he is consistently making the right kind of decisions to put him in position to compete during Saturday and Championship Sunday. I see his momentum and consistency continuing to build on Bull Shoals and Norfork.
Seriously considered: Brent Chapman
No one is fishing better than Chapman right now. The current leader in Angler of the Year points has two Top 5 finishes to start his 2016 Elite Series, and he is comfortable fishing shallow-water tournaments. He’s a solid pick for this event.
BUCKET B: POWROZNIK
Jacob Powroznik is a threat in any tournament he enters, especially events held during spring when fishing shallow cover comes into play. He’s great at finding sight fish that other anglers miss, and he’s proven that you can catch big bass on a shaky head — two patterns that will likely come into play on Bull Shoals and Norfork.
Seriously considered: Mike McClelland
McClelland, an Arkansas angler, brings local experience and knowledge into this event. While that doesn’t always translate into a victory, he understands how to approach and dissect the Ozark Lakes, which will come in handy at this tournament.
BUCKET C: SNOWDEN
Brian Snowden of nearby Reeds Spring, Mo., is very comfortable catching bass from clear water with abundant rock cover. While he hasn’t had a great start this season, his Ozark skills should put him in a position to make the Top 12 cut, if not win.
Seriously considered: Brandon Palaniuk
Palaniuk won on Bull Shoals in 2012, and even though he admits to fishing more conservatively this year, he’s still a threat in any tournament. Like Lucas, Palaniuk is a well-rounded angler who competes hard and comes into each event with a solid game plan.
BUCKET D: M. DAVIS
Mark Davis is another highly accomplished Ozark Lake angler. While he hasn’t cracked the Top 50 in the first two regular-season events so far in 2016, he’s an angler that doesn’t lose confidence in himself.
Seriously considered: Scott Rook
You’ll have to look back to early 2015 to see Rook’s last Top 12 finish, but that doesn’t mean he won’t show up to this one and surprise the field. Rook is a veteran Ozark angler from nearby Little Rock, Ark., with lots of experience to lean on.
BUCKET E: BIFFLE
Oklahoma pro Tommy Biffle introduced the Biffle Bug and Hard Head several years ago and has been fishing them effectively ever since. I expect the Biffle Bug to play with Bull Shoals’ and Norfork’s pre- and postspawn bass. Plus, Biffle is overdue to have a good showing, if not win one.
Seriously considered: Russ Lane
Lane is an excellent shallow-water angler and loves throwing a crankbait. Cranking has proven to be an effective technique in previous Elite events on Bull Shoals, and there will be lots of anglers using them.